Bush’s torture produces untruths

This video from the USA is called Keith Olbermann: “Waterboarding is Torture”, and It’s Settled Law – 4/23/09.

Torture is not just criminal. It also does not lead to the results which its advocates claim.

From the BBC:

Torturing ‘does not get truth’

Torture techniques used on suspected terrorists by the Bush administration may have failed to get to the truth, researchers say.

Professor Shane O’Mara of Trinity College, Dublin, said the interrogation techniques had a detrimental effect on brain functions related to memory.

He listed 10 methods of what he called torture used by the US, including stress positions and waterboarding.

His review is published in the journal, Trends in Cognitive Science.

‘Lack of control’

Professor O’Mara said US Department of Justice memos released in April showed that the Americans believed that prolonged periods of shock, anxiety, disorientation and lack of control were more effective than standard interrogation in extracting the truth.

He said: “This is based on the assumption that subjects will be motivated to reveal truthful information to end interrogation, and that extreme stress, shock and anxiety do not impact on memory.

“However this model of the impact of extreme stress on memory and the brain is utterly unsupported by scientific evidence.”

He said studies of extreme stress with special forces soldiers had found that their recall of previously learned information was impaired afterwards.

“Waterboarding in particular is an extreme stressor and has the potential to elicit widespread stress-induced changes in the brain.”

Professor O’Mara said contemporary neuroscientific models of human memory showed that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortices of the brain were very important.

The stress hormone, cortisol, binds to receptors in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex increasing neuronal excitability which compromises the normal functioning of the brain if it is sustained.

And other stress hormones called catecholamines could lead to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate which could cause long-term damage to the brain and body if they were maintained at a high level for a long time.


Professor O’Mara said a common argument in favour of torture was that it would reliably elicit truthful information from the captive’s long-term memory.

But psychological studies had suggested that during extreme stress and anxiety, the captive would be conditioned to associate speaking with periods of safety.

And because torture was stressful for the torturers the fact that the captive was speaking also provided a safety signal to the captor.

“Making the captive talk may become the end – not the truth of what the captive is revealing.

“These techniques cause severe, repeated and prolonged stress, which compromises brain tissue supporting memory and executive function.

“The fact that the detrimental effects of these techniques on the brain are not visible to the naked eye makes them no less real.”

Memory disruption

Dr David Harper, a clinical psychologist from the University of East London, said the study appeared to be consistent with previous research on memory and trauma and with evidence of previous torture survivors and those in the intelligence community critical of psychological torture techniques. …

Techniques used by US

Walling – captive is placed with heels touching the wall and is pulled away and pushed back into it with force
Wall standing – captive stands four to five feet from wall with fingertips supporting all the body weight to induce muscle fatigue
Cramped confinement – captive place in small box in darkness for up to two hours, in a larger box for up to 18 hours
Sleep deprivation – captive is deprived of sleep for up to 11 days
Stress positions – captive sits on floor with legs straight out in front and arms raised above head or is made to kneel on the floor while leaning back at a 45 degree angle
Waterboarding – captive is bound head down on an inclined bench with a cloth over the eyes. Water is applied to the cloth for 20 to 40 seconds at a time inducing fast breathing and perception of drowning

This paper looks like interesting lecture for Dick Cheney when he will be in his cell, standing trial for his torture and other crimes.

The season premiere of NBC’s crime drama “Law & Order” was a rarity for American television: an unsparing and essentially honest examination of the crimes being committed by the American government, in the name of the “war on terror”: here.

Australia: The government has intensified its efforts to stop Mamdouh Habib, a 53-year-old Australian citizen and father of four, from suing over its role in his illegal detention and torture in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay between 2001 and 2005: here.

10 thoughts on “Bush’s torture produces untruths

  1. Lawyer seeks to lock up CIA agents

    Italy: A prosecutor in the first trial anywhere scrutinising the US “extraordinary rendition” programme asked a Milan court on Wednesday to sentence 26 US nationals to jail terms ranging from 10 to 13 years for the abduction of an Egyptian citizen.

    Prosecutor Armando Spataro, completing his closing arguments, argued that a guilty verdict and strong sentence for the defendants, most of them CIA agents, would help restore confidence in “Western democracies,” eroded by tactics employed in the widely discredited “war on terror.”

    A verdict is expected by early November.



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